Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: soul food

Health, wellness, death and disease are on my mind. The new year launched, along with the usual “New Year – New You” promotions for diets, fitness programs, products and services being sold in the name of health and wellness.

As I watch January unfold, along with social media posts of friends  expressing delight with the 5.2 pounds they lost in one week working out with a new trainer or the increased energy they feel on the detox they started after the holidays, I have mixed feelings. I want my friends to be well. I want them to be in alignment with their bodies, to feel good and have optimal energy. And, I’ve seen and heard too many heartbreaking stories of people who’ve lived on the diet, fitness and wellness roller coasters, bouncing from one program to another, gaining and losing weight over and over again, looking for the answer to whatever health challenge they experience.

As I prayed about how to respond, about how to support and about how I hoped that this time it might really stick, I heard the voice of God’s love reminding me to take an eternal perspective on all these things. And, to remember that while health and wellness is important, in the long run, disease and death can’t be outrun.

I faced cancer at 30, had major shoulder surgery at 50 and am likely to have my left hip replaced this year as I hit 55. I’ve exercised regularly since junior high school, eaten lots of vegetables my entire life and don’t smoke, drink or take drugs. Disease happens anyway!

As I prayed, I got a download from the Spirit. As I went back to read it again, I felt inspired to share it here. For me, this is the Voice of Love reminding me that, as Julian of Norwich proclaimed, it is in the midst of suffering that we most need to experience that, held in God’s love, all will indeed be well.

All you have is today. You could die today. Don’t fear death. Death is not the enemy. Don’t fear disease. Disease is not the enemy. Each day’s sufferings are enough for the day. Don’t add to your burden by projecting into the future or clinging to the past. Today, this day, this moment, is all you have. Show up. Be present. Do your best. Let go of results.

Don’t fear your body. The great lie of health and wellness is that we can overcome and conquer the weakness of the body, bypass aging and never have to grow old or die. The truth is, time isn’t something to be managed, pain isn’t just weakness leaving the body and the value of external remedies and practices is limited. Health…wellness…isn’t the absence of disease but our capacity to live in harmony with ourselves and all living beings amidst the physical, mental emotional and relational disruptions that are part of life. There’s nothing to conquer, overcome, manage or fix! Our work is to be present with what is, listen to our aliveness and let decisions arise from the depths of our Inner Beings where Wisdom dwells.

Some wise person once said that discipline is remembering what you really want.**

It took a lot of discipline for me to show up and stay for 20 minutes in centering prayer today. In fact, it’s taken a lot of discipline to show up most days these past few weeks.

In one of his daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation this week, Richard Rohr reminded me that the union I desire with God is realized not by trying to achieve it, but by surrendering to it. He said that prayer is surrender.

Centering prayer is a prayer of surrender. As Father Thomas Keating wrote in his book, Invitation to Lovethe psychological content of my 20 minutes is irrelevant to the outcome. While I use my centering word to let go of mental material and come back to my center in God’s love, the goal isn’t to not rid myself of awareness, but to surrender myself to God’s presence and action within me.

For me, showing up to centering prayer isn’t the most difficult part. It’s staying still for 20 minutes that I find challenging. The past few days I couldn’t do it. I opened my eyes to see the minutes left on the timer and moved my body about trying to find a more comfortable position. But I stayed present to my intention to surrender. I stayed with myself and God for 20 minutes. I think Keating would say I succeeded!

What I really want is to rest and trust in God’s love. There’s nothing I can do with those 20 minutes that is more essential to my well being or the well being of the world than for me to surrender to God’s love. As Thomas Merton wrote in his Letter to a Young Activist, the highest good I can do will come not from me, but from my allowing myself, in obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love.

What I really want is to surrender my compulsive need to be active, engaged, doing and producing. What I really want is to strengthen my capacity to just be present with myself. What I really want is for all of my doing, activity, engagement and production to expand love within myself and the world around me.

According to Rohr, Keating, Merton and the teachings of many spiritual traditions, the best thing any of us can do in order to be better lovers, is to surrender to a Love greater than ourselves.

Contemplatives practices teach us to surrender. And they demand discipline.

If discipline is remembering what I really want, then asking myself what I really want is essential for staying with the practice in those moments when I’d rather do something else.

The spiritual path of discipline isn’t about force or willpower. It is a path of surrendering to the “Divine action” within us. As Merton puts it, they free us from the need to prove ourselves so we can be more open to the power that wants to work through us, without our taking the credit.

Remembering what we really want, identifying our “Why” can be an important support for showing up and staying on those days when doing, engaging and producing look so much more attractive.

Why do you want to be more disciplined in your spiritual practice?

 

**When I discovered this quote 10 years ago on the internet, it was attributed to Albert Einstein. In the meantime, the internet is full of references attributing it to some fellow named David Campbell. Go figure!

Mindful eating is simply eating with attention. But in our fast-food, eat-on-the-run world, just paying attention to what you are eating and how you are eating can be challenging. For overall wellness, nourishment and digestive health, how we eat can be as important as what we eat! Join us for an evening of slowing down, savoring each bite, honoring your body and celebrating the abundance we’ve been given.

SAVOR

SAVOR

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

In addition to meal and beverages, our time will include teaching on mindful eating principles, guided experiential learning on hunger awareness and engagement with five senses and five primary tastes, personal reflection on how you eat and facilitated conversation.

WHY MINDFUL EATING?

In our diet-obsessed but food abundant society, rather than being a joyful and nurturing experience, eating is often fraught with anxiety, distraction and guilt. While we may know that eating with attention could be helpful, deeply engrained patterns of relating to food and the hectic pace of life can undermine our efforts.

In addition to providing a delightful evening savoring a meal with a welcoming and compassionate group of women, this workshop will help you:

  • Strengthen your capacity to listen to your body’s signals about hunger and fullness
  • Understand the interplay between physical, emotional, spiritual and other hungers
  • Expand your awareness of the multiple levels of satisfaction possible through mindful eating

Dinner takes place at a private home in Pasadena. Space is limited to 12 with only 10 spots still open. More information and registration at Alive and Well Women.

Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting, praying and being tempted by Satan with what my former pastor Darrell Johnson calls “the world’s trinity” – power, possessions and control. As one New Testament author wrote: Because he suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those being tempted. That’s the good news we enter Lent with: we aren’t alone in our struggles. God gets it. Lent is a time to reflect on our lives, acknowledge temptations to be conformed to the culture around us and take stock of our investments.

In our media-saturated, often too busy lifestyles, many people, things and opportunities invite attention. The internet is a vast network of lanes going an infinite number of places. Thanks to technology we don’t even need to leave home to engage with hundreds of people and travel the world.

Every day I delete dozens of emails from retailers and service providers I subscribe to and organizations I value. I’d love to investigate the new brain book that Amazon recommends or the workshop offered by the Center for Non-Violent Communication. But to do so takes me on detours that eat up time, energy and, potentially, money. I delete 90% of what enters my in-box, but don’t unsubscribe because I think “Someday, I might want to go down that path…”

I like to keep my options open.

Cissy, Marva, Kathy and Diane

Cissy, Marva, Kathy and Diane

But, as my prayer partner Marva’s dad so wisely counseled her on many occasions, I need to stay in my own lane!

When Marva came home, complaining about some person or circumstance over which she had no control, he’d say “Marva, you’ve just got to learn to stay in your own lane.”

For Lent, I’m choosing to practice staying in my own lane!

- When I find myself tempted to open a superfluous email or click on a link to who-knows-where, I’m going to take a deep breath and stay in my own lane.

- When I am on the road and become frustrated with how others choose to drive, I’m going to take a deep breath and stay in my own lane.

- When I feel irritated because my husband left crumbs on the counter, I’m going to take a deep breath and stay in my own lane.

A deep inhale, followed by a long, slow, pursed lip exhale, activates the calming system of my body and brings me back to center. It’s a quick way to down shift my nervous system when it starts to amp up in response to the excitements and aggravations of life. It’s a powerful tool to bring my attention back to myself, let go of what I can’t control and change what I can–my own response.

I know I will fall short. I’ll probably veer into  Dave’s lane at least once by the time we go to bed tonight.

Thanks be to God that in Christ, I am already forgiven. And that’s exactly what makes Lent possible–I can reflect on how far short I fall because I walk into my darkness with Christ at my side. Before me, behind me, to my left, to my right, over and under, all around me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. He’s in my lane with me, ready to help me bring my attention back where it belongs.

That’s Great News for this driver!

 

 

My friend and mentor Joan Borysenko begins her on-line PlantPlus Nutrition Program on Tuesday, January 20th.  Topics covered include:

– Understanding why the Standard American Diet (SAD) is creating an epidemic of chronic disease.

– Learning to eat the foods that are best suited to your own body’s metabolism, which changes across your lifespan.

- Harnessing the power of mindfulness to make shifts in your awareness and habits.

– Understanding how diet affects psychological and mood issues like depression and anxiety, and how to improve them.

eat in alignment with your body

eat in alignment with your body

As noted in my review of the book that you will receive as part of your registration, the personalized nutrition path Joan will help you discover isn’t for those who want a quick or easy solution to weight or health issues. But that is exactly what makes her such a valuable resource for those seeking a sustainable, enjoyable and life-giving way to eat! This isn’t about losing weight, it’s about feeling your best and having the energy you need to live your best life. She’ll provide facts, guidelines and resources to help you listen to the wisdom of your own body and become your own expert as to what will best serve your overall health and well-being.

If you can’t make the conference call classes on Tuesdays, no worries — all sessions are recorded for reviewing at a later time. In addition to all that comes with the program itself, I’m offering additional coaching support and weekly phone conference mindful awareness sessions for those who register through me. I’d love to support you in making 2015 the year you align more fully with the wisdom of your body.

To register through me and get extra support at no extra cost, use this link to go to the home page and register. Then follow up with an email to me to arrange extra support. Here’s to a new year of loving yourself by meeting the real needs of your body and letting go of old patterns that no longer serve you!

 

 

I love poetry. But to read it or create it,  I must slow way down from my usual pace. My friend Stephanie (whose poem Disrobe I shared in my last post) is a junior high English teacher with lots of experience nurturing the poetic capacities in others. I captured a bit of my recent trip with her help on Labor Day.

The Cliffs of Mohr near my grandmother's birthplace in Lahinch, County Clare

Ireland

Fertile fields of wildflowers, grass and songbirds,
welcome travelers from faraway places.

Rolling hills, limestone castles, holy wells—
reminders of who I am, where I’ve come from and who I long to be.

Captured in precious but fleeting moments in ordinary days of urban life,
ever present in this sacred land my ancestors called home.

Golden silences broken by hilarious sounds
of nature’s delight in being alive!

by Cissy Brady-Rogers, Labor Day 2014

I returned home from two weeks in Ireland longing for more regular communion with open spaces, rivers, dirt, grass, trees, birds, wind, rain, clouds, rocks, cows, sheep, goats, bugs and the great outdoors. Spiritual director Christine Valters Paintner calls earth the “original monastery” – a place set apart to deepen our connection to God.

Climbing the 600 steps to top of Skellig

Throughout time contemplatives of all sorts have nurtured their spirits through communion with the earth. Previously uninhabited deserts and islands removed from ordinary life were natural sanctuaries. In the 6th century Christians built a monastic community atop Skellig Michael island off the coast of Ireland – one of the sacred places we visited during our trip. The 600 steps we climbed were just one of three paths the monks who inhabited the island between the 6th and 12th centuries built to navigate the steep climb from the Atlantic Ocean to their stone slab home 600 feet above.

Stone dwelling huts atop Skellig

In the 10th century St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that the natural world is our greatest teacher: “Believe me as one who has experience, you will find much more among the woods then ever you will among books. Woods and stones will teach you what you can never hear from any master.”

On Monday morning one of my soul friends and I took a walk in Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco (Spanish for “dry gulch”). Best known as the home of the Rose Bowl, the Arroyo’s trails, native plants and wildlife remind me that even though I’m far from the green, moist, cool motherland that made my soul sing and skin ever-so-happy, I can still find ways to nourish my connection to nature. The desert beauty of the Arroyo held us as we shared our hearts with each other.

Afterward we wrote poems using an exercise from Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words. Spontaneous and birthed by intuition rather than efforts to write “good” poetry, we painted pictures of God’s work in our innermost beings. I wrote about my Irish roots while her poem perfectly captured the essence of our conversation in the Arroyo. Stunningly beautiful and rich with meaning, I asked her if I could share it here. It reminds me that sacred places aren’t just beautiful for what we can seen, but for how they give birth to the unseen ancient wisdom that we can only hear if we make space to listen.

Disrobe

The wide expanse of sky
echoes your own heart’s desire
and you glimpse for
a clear moment
the wings of your own soul soaring.

It is time to stop
tinkering with borrowed dreams
that you wear like an
Ill-fitting dress
stiff-collared, pleated skirt
your arms limited
by taffeta sleeves.

It is time to shed the layers
and slip into
your own luminous skin.

Tentatively, at first,
you begin to disrobe.

Cantankerous voices mutter
your behavior is offensive,
oblique. As you persist
in your unraveling
of thread and fiber,
buttons and lace
the rumble turns
to shouting
Should!
Must!
Don’t!
Do!
Angry venom bubbles over.
Poison eyes, clenched fists.

But you are fully naked now,
not a shred of the old dress left.
the voices are lost
in the rush of wind,
and you realize
you are flying.

A poem by Stephanie Jenkins, Labor Day 2014

Stephanie didn’t set out to be wise or compose a great poem. Yet when she first read this to me, it went deep into my soul. Reminiscent of Mary Oliver, I think it’s a masterpiece! Thank you Stephanie for allowing me to share it here.

Atop Skellig Michael with Little Skellig in background

Nature and creative expression are powerful sources of grace in our lives, yet can feel frivolous amidst all the ordinary demands of life. I pray that you may find what nourishes you and be fiercely committed to making time and space for those things. Even if it means walking in a dry gulch instead of on an Emerald Isle. Maybe you’ll discover you can fly!